By Ian Neubauer

Exports of Australian wine to China last year grew by 53 per cent, compared to the previous year due to demand from a bourgeoning middle class and the growing trend for women to drink wine in China.

China overtook Japan in 2007 as the most popular Asian destination for Australian bottled wine exports, according to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC). However, the Chinese market for Australian wine is growing from a low base. China purchased $55.7m worth of Australian wine last year – less than 2 per cent of a combined market that last year raked in $3.02 billion in export earnings.

Austrade senior export adviser, Luisa Rust, said there were about 300 Australian wine companies exporting to China. “This is an extraordinary figure considering markets in the UK and US have about 600 Australian wine exporters each,” she said.

The UK and US are the two largest markets in the world for exported wine, where Australia remains the number one and number two market leaders respectively. And while analysts believe growth opportunities in those markets have reached saturation point, China has been identified as a key pioneer market of the future.

Austrade has invested substantial funds to promote Australian wine in China, with 17 full-time representatives working on its China wine team. The government-funded organisation also subsidises the costs of Australian participation at Food Hospitality China, the mainland’s largest gathering of international food, wine and hospitality suppliers. Last year saw 19 Australian companies showcasing their wine portfolios and a record 17,043 trade visitors attending the Shanghai event.

“In China there is a preference for [Australian] reds,” Rust said. “But in Shanghai there is small quantity in terms of whites because there is a growing trend for women to drink in China. “Our strategy is basically to focus on education and knowledge of the Australian category so people there don’t think we just make cab savs,” she said. “We are concentrating hard on the market. It is of great interest to us.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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